EveryScape Captures Beijing; China Can't Keep Its Geodata Locked Down Forever

Everyscape Forbidden City

Everyscape (Radar post) has added portions of Beijing to its site. Like the other cities on the site, many geo-positioned 2D images of Beijing have been 3D-ified and stitched together. If you’ve never been to Beijing I recommend roaming around the Forbidden City at minimum. As you roam around the city you’ll be able to see where you are on a site map.

The data was captured with a DSLR on a car mount and a GPS. Their was no previous coordination with the government. They brought a translator along with them, but never had any issues. The site maps were made by Everyscape. Apparently the GPS didn’t work as well as it does in the US — not a big surprise. Mok Oh, founder and CTO, thinks that the government is loosening up during the lead-up time to the Olympics.

China wants to keep its geodata with in its borders. For example when Microsoft launched Live Maps in China they had to jump through a lot of regulatory hoops and the data is on the mainland (see my interview with project director Dr. Vincent Tao about their launch for more details).

Unfortunately for the Chinese government, they will not be able to keep their data to themselves for long. It is too easy for a company (like Everyscape) or a person (like the person who uploaded GPS traces of Shanghai to Open Street Map) to go out and collect their own geodata using common, everyday gadgets. Once the data is captured on these devices and uploaded to servers the data is free, gone from the government’s restrictions. This will continue to happen, against their wishes, until they open it up and make it easier for their citizens and others to access the data.

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